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Pennsylvania Divorce Law Overview

Posted By Cairns Law Offices || 26-Jul-2016

For residents of Pennsylvania who are headed for divorce, to get the divorce started, one or both of the spouses must have been residents of Pennsylvania for at least six months.

If you are the spouse asking for the divorce, you are considered the plaintiff. You would file a complaint that explains to the court your reasons for divorcing your spouse, who is called the "defendant." Your divorce will not be finalized until the court enters a divorce decree.

Three Types of Divorce in Pennsylvania

There are three types of divorce in Pennsylvania: 1) a mutual consent divorce, 2) an unconsented divorce, and 3) a fault-based divorce. Of the three, a mutual consent divorce is the simplest and most cost-effective.

With a mutual consent divorce, the plaintiff informs the court that their marriage is irretrievably broken. When the husband and wife agree that the marriage cannot be saved and that they both want a divorce, the divorce process can be simple.

Once the complaint is filed by the plaintiff, the couple must wait 90 days. Each spouse files a sworn statement that they both want a divorce and that their marriage is irretrievably broken, and they ask the court to grant their divorce. In Pennsylvania, this is a no-fault divorce and it is also referred to as a "mutual consent divorce."

What if my spouse doesn't want a divorce?

If you want a divorce but your spouse doesn't, you can still obtain an uncontested divorce, but it's going to take longer than 90 days. You can still obtain an uncontested divorce, providing the following requirements are met:

  • You have been living separate and apart from your spouse for at least two years. However, the court can consider that you're separated even if you live under the same roof if you are living separate lives, and
  • You can prove that your marriage is beyond repair.

If you're in this situation and your spouse won't agree to a divorce, you (the plaintiff) may have to wait at least two years before you can ask the court to finalize your divorce.

How Fault Divorces Work

Spouses can also seek fault-based divorces, specifically when the plaintiff does not want to wait the two years and they're blaming their spouse for the breakdown of the marriage. To obtain a fault-based divorce, the plaintiff must prove that they were wronged by their spouse, for example, their spouse was abusive, or they committed adultery, or were convicted of a crime.

Couples Can Control Property Division

In Pennsylvania, couples can decide on how to divide their property without the court's intervention. We recommend drawing up a marital settlement agreement and then having that incorporated into the court order. Settlement agreements are good ideas because they can save spouses time, money, and aggravation.

If spouses cannot reach an agreement, the court will have to step in and decide on a fair division based on the couple's unique circumstances, the number of children, etc.

If either spouse agrees, child custody and child support can be included in their divorce, but Pennsylvania does not require that these matters are included in divorce actions; they can be handled in separate court actions.

Searching for a Pennsylvania divorce attorney? Contact Cairns Law Offices to learn about our low-cost divorce services!